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Der vierte und abschliessende Band dieses Kommentars legt grosses Gewicht auf die Wirkungsgeschichte. Darum werden diesem Band auch Bilder beigegeben; er will eine Brucke zur Kunstgeschichte und Musikwissenschaft schlagen. Naturlich werden auch brisante historische Fragen - z. Special Order. Special Order items are usually fulfilled in weeks. Cannot combine other item s in one order. Studies in Matthew. Translated by Rosemary Selle The work of one of the world's foremost New Testament scholars, Ulrich Luz, this book gathers eighteen penetrating studies of Matthew's Gospel, available here in English for the first time.

Luz's groundbreaking work ranges widely over the critical issues of Matthean studies, including the narrative structure and sources of the Gospel and its presentation of such themes as christology, discipleship, miracles, and Israel. Several chapters also outline and demonstrate the hermeneutical methods underlying Luz's acclaimed commentary on Matthew, for which this book can serve as a companion. Luz is particularly conscious of the Gospel's rec..

The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew. Robinson, J. Ulrich Luz both outlines and elucidates the story told in the Gospel, emphasizing its focal points: the Sermon on the Mount, the miracles, the renunciation of possessions, and particularly the theology of judgment by works, an idea that represents both a challenge, in its quest for a church set apart from non-Christians by deeds alone, and a burden, through its traumatic origin in the breach between Matthew's community and the Israelite majority.

Der dritte Band des Kommentars umfasst die Kapitel Zu diesem Abschnitt gehoren nicht nur so wichtige Texte wie z. Sie stehen uns heutigen Menschen viel ferner als andere Texte, z. Die schroffe Polemik des Matthaus gegen das Judentum gehort zu den fur uns heute peinlich, die Endgerichtstexte zu den uns fremd gewordenen Texten der Bibel. Um so wichtiger ist es, das Anliegen des Evangeliums zunachst einmal sorgfaltig zur Kenntnis.. Die Exegese ist die okumenische Paradedisziplin der Theologie.

Deshalb kann sie sich der Herausforderung von Jahren Reformation stellen. Die Kirchen haben ihre Erwartungen an die Bibelauslegung, wenn sie theologisch orientiert sein wollen. Andererseits hat die Exegese ihren spezifischen Eigensinn, wenn sie von den neutestamentlichen Texten aus auf die gegenwartige Lage der Okumene schaut. In diesem Band kommt beides zusammen: Kirchenleitungen und Wissenschaft in einem aktuellen, spannenden und perspektivenreichen Gesprach uber das Neue Testament als Wegweiser der Okumene.

Luz, Ulrich. Der zweite Band des inzwischen international bekannten Kommentars zum Matthausevangelium fuhrt die Kommentierung bis zum Kapitel 17 weiter. Schwerpunkte sind die Wunder Jesu Kap. Neben der Analyse der Erzahlung bekommt wiederum die Wirkungsgeschichte besonderes Gewicht. Yet these distinctive traits were not considered important enough to be recorded as part of the official teaching, since it was the shining through of the Father, not the human characteristics, that counted.

It reveals a mentality different from that of journalists.

The Dating of the Apocalypse of John

It may horrify photographers and historians. What a pity! We only need to study the enormous variety of treatment given to portraits of Christ through the centuries to recognise this. The shepherd boy of Roman times, the majestic Byzantine Christ, the Man of Sorrows of the Middle Ages, the triumphant perfect man of the Renaissance, and the searching Christ of modern times all illustrate how the fact of the Incarnation can be an endless source of new inspiration. We realise then that every generation can create its own image of Christ; not thereby denying the features of the man of Nazareth, but doing justice to yet another aspect of his transcendent significance.

Robert Browning If the story of Jesus focusses our attention on realities that go beyond secular events, what then is the role of the science of history in its regard? This is, indeed, a question we need to discuss. Chapter 3 The Science of History and Truth that Transcends I remember once having a discussion about all these things with a friend of mine.

Do they accept the gospels as trustworthy evidence? Many people, both inside and outside the Church, would be inclined to agree. They believe that the truth of the Jesus story should be determined by the objective scrutiny of scientific history.

Luz, Ulrich 1938–

They would give historians the final word. It is an assumption that needs to be challenged. The modern sciences can help us in the study of the gospels, as I will show in this book, but they can never establish the truth of the story of Jesus. The reason is that history and faith operate on different planes, although sometimes they overlap. We know this from everyday life. It makes me discover the charm of a picturesque village scene. What can scientists do? An art historian may authenticate it as a piece by the master.

An antique dealer will fix its price. But the message of what the artist is saying can be verified only by a viewer like myself. For the artist addresses me as a viewer,not as an analyst, historian or antique dealer. In the same way, the truth of the gospels can be verified only by the believers whom they address, not by historians. Let us take the episode narrated in John Jesus, we are told, visited the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem.

It was a place reputed to effect miraculous cures. They thought it was an angel touching the water. Jesus passed by, took pity on a man who had been paralysed for thirty-eight years and healed him. This led to a confrontation with the scribes, for that day happened to be a sabbath. According to them, practising medicine broke the sabbath rest. For instance, wounds continue to heal whether it is sabbath or not. I too continue doing my work of healing.

By curing the paralytic Jesus has just proved that he can heal as his Father does. Instead of accusing Jesus, the scribes should turn to him to be cured of their own spiritual paralysis! Suppose we are asking the question: Is what the writer of this gospel tells us true or not? To answer this we first have to establish clearly what he is telling us. Jesus cured a paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus claimed equality with God. If we believe in Jesus he can cure us too. The third statement is the most important one.

For the whole purpose of the gospel is to make us accept Jesus as our saviour. Put in a nutshell, the story teaches us that Jesus can heal us spiritually as much as he cured the paralytic physically. But this is a religious statement. It appeals to our faith. It asks for commitment.


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Obviously, the truth or falsehood of the statement will depend on the validity or invalidity of the religious claims made. The statement demands a religious answer. So although considerations of historical truth are not irrelevant if, for example, it could be shown that Jesus had never existed at all, never cured anyone, never made any messianic claims, the beliefs of his followers would be shown to be groundless , ultimately the truth of the statement has to be assessed by religious norms and falls outside the scope of the secular historian. It may be worth going into this matter even more deeply.

Such a shift in the meaning of truth is not a quibble about words; it makes a real difference. This also applies to religious truth. Religion is neither mathematics, nor history, nor literature, nor science. It does not concern things, but people. It is transcendental truth, the truth conveyed in the story of salvation. You may think that I am overstating my case. Surely doctors, reporters and historians can make some valid observations that have a bearing on the statement? Indeed they can. But such observations will always fall short of assessing the religious claim itself. Turning to our story the historian may fasten his attention on a specific detail.

Can we prove the existence of such a pool at the time of Christ? Some critics have denied that the reference is accurate. How can we credit it with any historical precision? The five porticoes refer to the five books of Moses on which the Jews rely for salvation. In excavations in the area north-west of the Temple uncovered a huge reservoir trapezoidal in form, about seventy yards wide and a hundred yards long, divided into two pools by a partition in the middle.

The reservoir had been hewn from the rock in Maccabean times, and during the reign of Herod the Great colonnades had been built on the four sides and on the dam in the middle. Aesculapius was the pagan God of Health. As a Jew the man was not supposed to seek for a miraculous cure in a pagan shrine!

If we take into account that the Fourth Gospel has been shown in all its fifteen main geographical references to have been precise and trustworthy, 13 it follows that its traditions have to be treated with greater respect than they often have been by the critics. Even though the final edition of this gospel may have been composed towards the end of the first century, its contents reflect very ancient traditions that originated in Jerusalem.

The historian has supplied us with evidence from archaeology and ancient documents. Later we shall see that historical research also helps us to understand what happened on Easter day and how the gospel traditions were handed on. Historical research renders useful services. In fact, his observations, though helpful on one level, are somewhat irrelevant as far as the message of the gospel is concerned. No angel, by his glad descent dispenses that divine endower which, with its healing waters, went; but He, whose word surpassed its wave, is still omnipotent to save.

Bernard Barton This then is the conclusion we may draw. The story of Jesus speaks about God; about what he has done for us in Jesus. Part of the story can be checked by historical research—the part that is rooted in human events. But to grasp the real message of the story and to accept its life- giving truth we have to be believers. Are we, perhaps, in need of historians who believe? This is not as absurd as you might think. We look at history through the eyes of our culture and philosophy.

We study the problems of the past as a key to those we face ourselves. Facts and interpretation are both essential. Is it an event that can be studied by historians? Has it left discernible traces in secular history? It is a question we need urgently to explore. Chapter 4 The Resurrection: did anything really happen?

The resurrection is the central doctrine of our Christian faith. It has always been thus. From the earliest times the apostles preached Jesus as the one who had risen. An old profession of faith preserved in the New Testament begins as follows: Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. He was buried. He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Paul recorded this fragment in the year AD 57, but he was obviously quoting a well-known formula whose contents, rhythmic form and stereotype expressions allow scholars to identify it as pre- Pauline and date it between AD 36 and But what about its historical truth?

The resurrection itself transcends history as we will see later. Anchored however as it is in ordinary history, certain claims can be probed by historical research. Christians venerated the Sunday as the day of his resurrection. Let us consider each of these claims in turn.

He was raised. I am starting with this observation because it is very basic to the whole idea of resurrection for Jews. To the Jews such a concept was impossible. To regain life involves both soul and body. It would be unthinkable for someone like Paul to proclaim the resurrection while the body was still in the tomb. The tombs of great and holy men were visited and venerated. From literary sources and archaeological evidence a list has been drawn up of forty-nine well-known tombs in and around Jerusalem. These are topographical details verifiable by anyone in Jerusalem.

Again, we know that in early Christian preaching at Jerusalem, as reflected in Acts, David and Jesus were compared. But being the prophet he was and knowing that God had promised under oath that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and announced the resurrection of Christ, namely that it was he who was not to be abandoned to the underworld, whose flesh would not see corruption. That is why all the four gospel accounts end with the finding of the empty tomb.

It is impossible for me, in such a short essay, to analyse these stories here in detail. But just a few words are essential to indicate their origin and meaning. The oldest account, which we find in Mark —, belongs to the ancient passion narrative. This liturgical practice of the early Christian community had three parts which are reflected in the narrative: the vigil or night celebration Mk , the Good Friday commemoration at the prayer hours Mk and the Easter celebration at the empty tomb Mk Parts of the passion were re-enacted as is shown by visual presentations and dramatic elements.

This would explain how we have to understand the story of the women finding the tomb. No doubt, ancient historical events are preserved in the narration; yet the story itself reflects more directly liturgical practice. They find the stone rolled away from its opening. They enter the empty chamber and find a man clothed in white: the liturgical minister. He has risen. He is no longer here. See the place where they laid him. Such details may even have served theological purposes.

What is incontrovertible, however, is the fact of the empty tomb itself. The apostles spoke of it. Pilgrims went to see it. It was there for people to inspect. The third day Not only the place of the resurrection, but also its exact time is recorded in ancient tradition. What does the phrase mean? Jesus was crucified on the Friday before the Passover.

For the same reason Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were in a hurry to bury Jesus. The Jews never used a mathematical calculation in these matters as we might do by thinking of three times twenty-four hours; they counted both the day of the start and the day of completion within the number. This is a very precise dating of the event.

In fact, at 1 first sight the importance of this dating might escape us. We j could then have simply expected them to proclaim that Jesus had risen. There would be no reason for them to claim it had happened on the third day. But the evidence does not support them. In fact, there is no convincing Old Testament passage at all that could have occasioned the belief that Jesus had to rise on the third day.

No single text is quoted for this purpose either in the New Testament or in early Christian writings of the first two centuries. Sunday as the Day of the Lord We are so used to thinking of the Sunday as a special day, a day of worship and leisure, that we forget it had no special status at the time of Christ. For the Jews it was the Saturday, the Sabbath, that mattered as the day of rest. But, surprisingly, the early Christians started to treat that day with special reverence. It was on the first day of the week that the early Christians came together to break the bread Acts It was then that they collected their common gifts 1 Cor It is interesting to see the answer the gospels give to this question.

The earliest sources therefore testify to the belief that Jesus appeared to the community of disciples on that first Sunday and that he celebrated the Eucharist with them. This ties in extremely well with the Sunday practice recorded in other sources. These always indicate two reasons why Christians kept the Sunday: it was the day when Christ rose from the dead and it was the day when they came together for a eucharistic celebration.

What would have been more natural for them than to have selected the Thursday for the Eucharist? The fact that they did not do so, that from the earliest times on they decided to choose the Sunday; the fact also that, in spite of their strong Old Testament background they rejected the Sabbath for it, must point to an actual event of tremendous significance which took place on that Sunday, that first day of the week.

This happening must have been linked to a eucharistic meal. In fact, no other explanation does justice to this sudden strong attachment of the Christian community to the Sunday Eucharist than to assume that the early community was convinced that they had actually met the risen Lord at a new eucharistic meal on that first Sunday. This meeting with the risen Christ was considered to be like a second institution of the Eucharist, which made Sunday forever the appropriate day for Christian worship and celebration.

The actual resurrection event is of such far-reaching significance that it transcends history. We will speak about this later. It is also interesting to note that the resurrection itself, since it goes beyond human observation, is not described in the Christian sources. They testify to its effects: the empty grave to start with the least , encounters with the risen Christ, a total renewal of faith. We asked the question: What can historical science say about the resurrection event?

If we put together what we have seen so far, we can state that on purely historical grounds we have to admit that something unusual happened on that Sunday after the Passover. The tomb where Jesus had been buried was empty and became a place of pilgrimage.

It points to some profound experience that transformed them as a community. No unbiased historians in my view can deny the fact of that experience. They may interpret it as a purely psychological event, as some form of mass hypnosis. Perhaps, understandably so.

Luz, Ulrich 1938–

Before proceeding further we should therefore ask ourselves: Why bother about a man who died and is believed to have risen? No amount of evidence would make them accept it. David Hume , that Scottish forerunner of modern historians, spoke for many when he wrote: Suppose that all the historians who treat of England should agree that on the first of January Queen Elizabeth died; that both before and after her death she was seen by her physicians and the whole court, as is usual with persons of her rank; that her successor was acknowledged and proclaimed by parliament; and that, after being interred a month, she again appeared, resumed the throne and governed England for three years: I must confess that I should be surprised at the concurrence of so many odd circumstances, but should not have the least inclination to believe so miraculous an event.

In the case of Queen Elizabeth or any other ordinary person, he is right. But what if God uses such an unusual event as a sign? What if that sign precisely requires a new act of creation, a restoration of life? In communication we rely heavily on signs. And signs, if we care to study them, prove remarkably unpredictable. Sounds and vocabulary in one language are complete gibberish in another. Gestures may convey one thing in one country, something else in the next.

Signs need to be interpreted within a cultural context, within a totality of human experience. What seems nonsensical to us at first may suddenly become very meaningful in the light of genuine experience. A sign will only make sense to us if we experience it as a sign.

We saw in the previous chapter that the Easter event left a visible imprint on the course of history by the ensuing veneration of the empty tomb and the introduction of the Sunday Eucharist. The impact of the resurrection experience becomes even more telling when we place the Easter event within a wider context.

Instead, a disillusioned and dispirited band of disciples suddenly turned into an enthusiastic and dynamic team of preachers. Pinchas Lapide, a well-known Jewish writer, recently expressed it so well in an interview. The resurrection is an invisible event that lies sandwiched between two certainties. The first certainty is the crucifixion. And the other historical certainty is the foundation of the Church which first embraced the whole East, then spread the knowledge of God to nations until the ends of the earth.

I find that one can assert on logical grounds that between the utter despair of the crucifixion and the emergence of the Church something very basic must have happened. Many apparitions of Jesus are recounted in the New Testament: to Mary Magdalene, to the women after they had left the tomb, to Peter, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to more than five hundred disciples on one occasion, to James, and, most of all, as we have seen, to the apostles assembled in the upper room on the first day of the week.

Without any doubt these encounters with the risen Christ were real to the disciples. They were happenings that shook them and transformed them. Yet they were not just like meeting an ordinary person of flesh and blood, like coming across someone in the street.

These were exceptional gestures, however, not the rule; and they occur in later rather than earlier texts.


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The accounts show unmistakably that Jesus was different. Neither Mary Magdalene, nor the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, nor the apostles fishing on the Lake of Tiberias, recognised Jesus at first. The moment of recognition came as a surprise, as a mystical insight Lk ; Jn ; Jesus did not allow Mary to touch him or hold on to him Jn When he appeared to the assembled disciples, he entered the room through closed doors Jn , Jesus was not seen by Caiaphas or Pilate; he was only seen by believers. Because I have believed, I bid my mind be still. Therein is now conceived Thy hid yet sovereign will.

Because I set all thought aside in seeking Thee, Thy proven purpose Wrought abideth blest in me…… Because I can no more exist but in Thy being Blindly these eyes adore; Sightless are taught new seeing. We can see this from the way in which Paul compares his own vision on the road to Damascus with the apparitions Peter, the Twelve, James and the five hundred disciples had 1 Cor When Paul speaks about his own experience on the road to Damascus Acts , he puts it on a line with a later vision he had in Jerusalem Acts and another vision he received in Troas Acts Seeing the Lord was a special kind of vision 1 Cor , different from other spiritual revelations and insights 2 Cor But there was much they had in common too.

Paul was an ecstatic visionary, a charismatic leader who had profound mystical experiences. Within those experiences the encounter with the risen Christ stood out as authoritative and unique. To some extent you would be right. Mystical experiences and spiritual visions do not come under the scope of direct scientific observation. Reality goes far beyond what can be observed under the microscope, and seers of visions may see reality better than modern science ever can.

But other Christians, too, can share in this same experience. When we come to know and accept Jesus, it is not because of some notional assent, but because we have a living encounter with him. This is what Jesus promised. Jesus will show himself to us as the saviour, as the Lord, in a tangible manner.

We will know he is there because we can see him. By entering directly into our life and transforming it, Jesus will confirm his living presence in a very immediate and convincing spiritual experience. The key fact in history Allow me to enlarge a little on this question of meaning. People sometimes have very crude ideas about the resurrection. They imagine it means first and foremost that a corpse stepped out of the tomb and was subsequently seen by a number of people to speak and act. Small wonder that critics are sceptical and that historians claim such a happening must be both nonsensical and the product of pure imagination.

According to Christian faith, however, what changed at the resurrection is not only the body of Christ, but the situation in the world. We believe that at the resurrection God was reconciled with sinful mankind. It was as if in a totally new creation he brought about a new situation in which there was hope and the prospect of eternal life.

The resurrection is therefore a cosmic event. The resurrection cannot be tamed or tethered by any utilitarian test. It is a vast watershed in history, or it is nothing. It cannot be tested for truth; it is the test for lesser truths. No light can be thrown on it; its own light blinds the investigator. It does not compel belief; it resists it. Perhaps we could put it in this way.

From the moment of our birth our life is threatened by death. When we leave the womb of our mother we lose a very basic security that we will never regain; but new possibilities for us as persons open up. The same happens when we leave our parental home. Throughout life we meet this combination of growth and loss. When a woman grows old she loses her fertility; a man loses his job. There is an aspect of dying in all this, with the possibility of greater freedom too. At the end of it all stands death itself. Will it mean a total destruction of our personality? Will it mean the loss of everything we have built up?

Will our unique search, our specific individuality be dissolved into dust and ashes for ever? The resurrection provides the Christian answer to this universal problem of our existence. The resurrection is the fact that can fundamentally alter the negative character of our common human death. He stands outside the possibility of dying, in the Eternity given by love. Whoever confesses the ultimate meaning of Jesus, confesses at the same time his meaning as the one who defeats death, his lordship over death, his resurrection. The resurrection can thus be said to be truly transcendent.

It belongs to history because it is rooted in it and transforms it. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus lies beyond our earthly categories. Have his teachings been faithfully recorded? Can he become my personal guide? In the gospels Jesus is reported to have said that any disciple who treasures his teachings and shapes his life according to them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. Since Jesus is my teacher whose resurrection gives a totally new meaning to my life, his teachings are a precious gift that I value highly.

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But can I be sure that what I find in the gospel texts are the genuine teachings of my Master? Since the Enlightenment many doubts have been thrown on the reliability of the gospel traditions. The critics who express such doubts will commonly admit that Jesus was a preacher who lived and died in Palestine, but they maintain that few of his original words have come down to us intact.

If we were to believe these critics, it is not the original Jesus who is speaking to us in the gospels, but rather the divinized product of collective imagination. What should we make of these allegations? Can we disprove them? Can we show that the teachings presented in the gospels do go back to Jesus himself? I believe we can. We will first study the attitude of the evangelists, the writers of the gospels. Then we will look at the trustworthiness of the written documents and oral traditions which they used as sources.

The understanding of these relationships has changed over time. The present chapter offers firstly an overview of these changes, followed by a more detailed study of the basic themes common to both Testaments. Affirmation of a reciprocal relationship. Their first relationship is precisely that. At the beginning of the second century, when Marcion wished to discard the Old Testament, he met with vehement resistance from the post-apostolic Church. Moreover, his rejection of the Old Testament led him to disregard a major portion of the New — he retained only the Gospel of Luke and some Pauline Letters — which clearly showed that his position was indefensible.

It is in the light of the Old Testament that the New understands the life, death and glorification of Jesus cf. Lk Re-reading the Old Testament in the light of Christ. The examples given show that different methods were used, taken from their cultural surroundings, as we have seen above. These suggest a twofold manner of reading, in its original meaning at the time of writing, and a subsequent interpretation in the light of Christ. In Judaism, re-readings were commonplace. The Old Testament itself points the way. For example, in the episode of the manna, while not denying the original gift, the meaning is deepened to become a symbol of the Word through which God continually nourishes his people cf.

Dt What is specific to the Christian re-reading is that it is done, as we have said, in the light of Christ. This new interpretation does not negate the original meaning. The Hellenistic world had different methods of which Christian exegesis made use as well. The Greeks often interpreted their classical texts by allegorising them. Commenting on ancient poetry like the works of Homer, where the gods seem to act like capricious and vindictive humans, scholars explained this in a more religious and morally acceptable way by emphasising that the poet was expressing himself in an allegorical manner when he wished to describe only human psychological conflicts, the passions of the soul, using the fiction of war between the gods.

In this case, a new and more spiritual meaning replaced the original one. Jews in the diaspora sometimes utilised this method, in particular to justify certain prescriptions of the Law which, taken literally, would appear nonsensical to the Hellenistic world. Philo of Alexandria, who had been nurtured in Hellenistic culture, tended in this direction.

He developed, often with a touch of genius, the original meaning, but at other times he adopted an allegorical reading that completely overshadowed it. As a result, his exegesis was not accepted in Judaism. Another Pauline text uses allegory to interpret a detail of the Law 1 Co , but he never adopted this method as a general rule. The Fathers of the Church and the medieval authors, in contrast, make systematic use of it for the entire Bible, even to the least detail — both for the New Testament as well as for the Old — to give a contemporary interpretation capable of application to the Christian life.

For example, Origen sees the wood used by Moses to sweeten the bitter waters Ex as an allusion to the wood of the cross; he sees the scarlet thread used by Rahab as a means of recognising her house Jos , as an allusion to the blood of the Saviour. Any detail capable of establishing contact between an Old Testament episode and Christian realities was exploited. In every page of the Old Testament, in addition, many direct and specific allusions to Christ and the Christian life were found, but there was a danger of detaching each detail from its context and severing the relationship between the biblical text and the concrete reality of salvation history.

Interpretation then became arbitrary. Certainly, the proposed teaching had a certain value because it was animated by faith and guided by a comprehensive understanding of Scripture read in the Tradition. But such teaching was not based on the commentated text. It was superimposed on it. It was inevitable, therefore, that at the moment of its greatest success, it went into irreversible decline. Thomas Aquinas saw clearly what underpinned allegorical exegesis: the commentator can only discover in a text what he already knows, and in order to know it, he had to find it in the literal sense of another text.

From this Thomas Aquinas drew the conclusion: a valid argument cannot be constructed from the allegorical sense, it can only be done from the literal sense. Starting from the Middle Ages, the literal sense has been restored to a place of honour and has not ceased to prove its value. The critical study of the Old Testament has progressed steadily in that direction culminating in the supremacy of the historical-critical method. And so an inverse process was set in motion: the relation between the Old Testament and Christian realities was now restricted to a limited number of Old Testament texts.

Today, there is the danger of going to the opposite extreme of denying outright, together with the excesses of the allegorical method, all Patristic exegesis and the very idea of a Christian and Christological reading of Old Testament texts. This gave rise in contemporary theology, without as yet any consensus, to different ways of re-establishing a Christian interpretation of the Old Testament that would avoid arbitrariness and respect the original meaning.

The basic theological presupposition is that God's salvific plan which culminates in Christ cf. Ep is a unity, but that it is realised progressively over the course of time. Both the unity and the gradual realisation are important; likewise, continuity in certain points and discontinuity in others. From the outset, the action of God regarding human beings has tended towards final fulfilment and, consequently, certain aspects that remain constant began to appear: God reveals himself, calls, confers a mission, promises, liberates, makes a covenant.

The first realisations, though provisional and imperfect, already give a glimpse of the final plenitude. This is particularly evident in certain important themes which are developed throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation: the way, the banquet, God's dwelling among men. Beginning from a continuous re-reading of events and texts, the Old Testament itself progressively opens up a perspective of fulfilment that is final and definitive.

The Exodus, the primordial experience of Israel's faith cf. Dt ; becomes the symbol of final salvation. Liberation from the Babylonian Exile and the prospect of an eschatological salvation are described as a new Exodus. The notion of fulfilment is an extremely complex one, 42 one that could easily be distorted if there is a unilateral insistence either on continuity or discontinuity.

Christian faith recognises the fulfilment, in Christ, of the Scriptures and the hopes of Israel, but it does not understand this fulfilment as a literal one. Such a conception would be reductionist. In reality, in the mystery of Christ crucified and risen, fulfilment is brought about in a manner unforeseen. It includes transcendence. All the texts, including those which later were read as messianic prophecies, already had an immediate import and meaning for their contemporaries before attaining a fuller meaning for future hearers. The messiahship of Jesus has a meaning that is new and original.

The original task of the prophet was to help his contemporaries understand the events and the times they lived in from God's viewpoint. Accordingly, excessive insistence, characteristic of a certain apologetic, on the probative value attributable to the fulfilment of prophecy must be discarded.

This insistence has contributed to harsh judgements by Christians of Jews and their reading of the Old Testament: the more reference to Christ is found in Old Testament texts, the more the incredulity of the Jews is considered inexcusable and obstinate. Insistence on discontinuity between both Testaments and going beyond former perspectives should not, however, lead to a one-sided spiritualisation. What has already been accomplished in Christ must yet be accomplished in us and in the world. The definitive fulfilment will be at the end with the resurrection of the dead, a new heaven and a new earth.

Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us. The Old Testament in itself has great value as the Word of God. To read the Old Testament as Christians then does not mean wishing to find everywhere direct reference to Jesus and to Christian realities. True, for Christians, all the Old Testament economy is in movement towards Christ; if then the Old Testament is read in the light of Christ, one can, retrospectively, perceive something of this movement.

But since it is a movement, a slow and difficult progression throughout the course of history, each event and each text is situated at a particular point along the way, at a greater or lesser distance from the end. Retrospective re-readings through Christian eyes mean perceiving both the movement towards Christ and the distance from Christ, prefiguration and dissimilarity. Conversely, the New Testament cannot be fully understood except in the light of the Old Testament. The Christian interpretation of the Old Testament is then a differentiated one, depending on the different genres of texts.

It does not blur the difference between Law and Gospel, but distinguishes carefully the successive phases of revelation and salvation history. It is a theological interpretation, but at the same time historically grounded. Far from excluding historical-critical exegesis, it demands it. Although the Christian reader is aware that the internal dynamism of the Old Testament finds its goal in Jesus, this is a retrospective perception whose point of departure is not in the text as such, but in the events of the New Testament proclaimed by the apostolic preaching.

It cannot be said, therefore, that Jews do not see what has been proclaimed in the text, but that the Christian, in the light of Christ and in the Spirit, discovers in the text an additional meaning that was hidden there. The horror in the wake of the extermination of the Jews the Shoah during the Second World War has led all the Churches to rethink their relationship with Judaism and, as a result, to reconsider their interpretation of the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. It may be asked whether Christians should be blamed for having monopolised the Jewish Bible and reading there what no Jew has found.

Should not Christians henceforth read the Bible as Jews do, in order to show proper respect for its Jewish origins? In answer to the last question, a negative response must be given for hermeneutical reasons. For to read the Bible as Judaism does necessarily involves an implicit acceptance of all its presuppositions, that is, the full acceptance of what Judaism is, in particular, the authority of its writings and rabbinic traditions, which exclude faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

As regards the first question, the situation is different, for Christians can and ought to admit that the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible one, in continuity with the Jewish Sacred Scriptures from the Second Temple period, a reading analogous to the Christian reading which developed in parallel fashion.

Both readings are bound up with the vision of their respective faiths, of which the readings are the result and expression. Consequently, both are irreducible. On the practical level of exegesis, Christians can, nonetheless, learn much from Jewish exegesis practised for more than two thousand years, and, in fact, they have learned much in the course of history.

A God who speaks to humans. The God of the Bible is one who enters into communication with human beings and speaks to them. In different ways, the Bible describes the initiative taken by God to communicate with humanity in choosing the people of Israel. God makes his word heard either directly or though a spokesperson.

Translation and Text

The divine word takes the form of a promise made to Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt Ex , following the promises made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for their descendants. After the departure from Egypt, God commits himself to his people by a covenant in which he twice takes the initiative Ex ; As bearer of the word of God, Moses is considered a prophet, 48 and even more than a prophet Nb Throughout the course of the people's history, prophets were conscious of transmitting the word of God.

The narratives of the prophetic call show how the word of God comes, forcefully imposes itself, and invites a response. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezechiel perceive God's word as an event which changed their lives. Even though it meets with resistance because of human freedom, the word of God is efficacious: 50 it is a force working at the heart of history.

In the narrative of the creation of the world by God Gn 1 , we discover that, for God, to say is to do. The New Testament prolongs this perspective and deepens it. For Jesus becomes the preacher of the word of God Lk and appeals to Scripture: he is recognised as a prophet, 51 but he is more than a prophet.

Jesus is not simply a messenger; he makes plain his intimacy with God. God is One. God is ONE: this proclamation points to the language of love cf. Sg The God who loves Israel is confessed as unique and calls each one to respond to that love by a love ever total. Israel is called to acknowledge that the God who brought it out of Egypt is the only one who liberated it from slavery. This God alone has rescued Israel and Israel must express its faith in him by keeping the Law and through the cult.

In the New Testament the profession of Jewish faith is repeated by Jesus himself in Mk , quoting Dt , and by his Jewish questioner who quotes Dt God the Creator and providence. In this opening text, the affirmation of the goodness of creation is repeated seven times, becoming one of the refrains Gn In different formulations, in different contexts, the affirmation of God as Creator is constantly repeated.

Thus in the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt, God exercises power over the wind and the sea Ex In Is , this creative action is the basis of hope for a salvation to come. The God who creates the world by his Word Gn 1 and gives human beings the breath of life Gn , is also the one who shows solicitude towards every human being from the moment of conception. An interesting aspect of this text is that the creative action of God serves here to ground faith in the resurrection of the just.

The same is true of Rm Faith in God the Creator, vanquisher of the cosmic forces and of evil, becomes inseparable from trust in him as Saviour of the Israelite people as well as of individuals. In the New Testament, the conviction that all existing things are the work of God comes straight from the Old Testament. It seems so obvious that no proof is needed and creation vocabulary is not prominent in the Gospels.

Nevertheless, there is in Mt a reference to Gn which speaks of the creation of man and woman. Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap The Word came into the world, yet the world did not know him Jn Jesus witnesses to this love of God to the very end Jn Using a different vocabulary, the Book of Revelation offers a similar perspective. In history, the victory over the forces of evil will go hand in hand with a new creation that will have God himself as light, 62 and a temple will no longer be needed, for the Almighty God and the Lamb will be the Temple of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem Rv , In the Pauline Letters, creation has an equally important place.

The argument of Paul in Rm concerning the pagans is well known. Ws So creation then may not be rejected as evil. We will take up this theme later after treating of the human condition. The Human Person: Greatness and Wretchedness. These chapters set the tone for reading the entire Bible. Everyone is invited to recognise therein the essential traits of the human situation and the basis for the whole of salvation history. Created in the image of God: affirmed before the call of Abraham and the election of Israel, this characteristic applies to all men and women of all times and places Gn 64 and confers on them their highest dignity.

The expression may have originated in the royal ideology of the nations surrounding Israel, especially in Egypt, where the Pharaoh was regarded as the living image of god, entrusted with the maintenance and renewal of the cosmos. But the Bible has made this metaphor into a fundamental category for defining every human person. Insofar as they are images of God and the Creator's stewards, human beings become recipients of his word and are called to be obedient to him Gn Human beings exist as man and woman whose task is at the service of life.

In this way, the likeness to God, the relationship of man and woman, and ruling over the world are intimately connected. The close relationship between being created in God's image and having authority over the earth has many consequences. First of all, the universality of these characteristics excludes all superiority of one group or individual over another. All human beings are in the image of God and all are charged with furthering the Creator's work of ordering.

Secondly, arrangements are made with a view to the harmonious co-existence of all living things in their search for the necessary means of subsistence: God provides for both humans and beasts Gn As well as the rhythm of day and night, lunar months and solar years Gn , God establishes a weekly rhythm with rest on the seventh day, the basis of the sabbath Gn When they keep the sabbath observance Ex , the masters of the earth render homage to their Creator. Human wretchedness finds its exemplary biblical expression in the story of the first sin and punishment in the garden of Eden.

This prohibition implies that serving God and keeping his commandments are correlatives of the power to subdue the earth Gn , The man fulfils God's intentions first of all by naming the animals and then in accepting the woman as God's gift In the temptation scene, in contrast, the human couple ceases to act in accordance with God's demands. The result is that they try to avoid a confrontation with God. But their attempt to hide themselves shows the folly of sin, because it leaves them in the very place where the voice of God can be heard The man and the woman perceive that they are naked , which means that they have forfeited trust in each other and in the harmony of creation.

By his sentence, God redefines the conditions of human living but not the relationship between him and the couple On the other hand, the man is relieved of his particular task in the garden, but not of work , In other words, God continues to give human beings a task. The relationship between man and wife deteriorates. When this prohibition is violated, access to the tree of life is henceforth blocked Created in God's image and charged with cultivating the soil, the human couple have the great honour of being called to complete the creative action of God in taking care of his creatures Wi By refusing to heed the voice of God and preferring that of creatures human freedom is brought into play; to suffer pain and death is the consequence of a choice made by the persons themselves.

The Old Testament reveals how this plan was realised through the ages, with alternating moments of wretchedness and greatness. Yet God was never resigned to leaving his people in wretchedness. He always reinstates them in the path of true greatness, for the benefit of the whole of humanity. To these fundamental traits, it may be added that the Old Testament is not unaware of either the deceptive aspects of human existence cf. Qo , the problem of innocent suffering cf. But in every case, especially the last, far from being an obstacle to human greatness, the experience of wretchedness, paradoxically, served to enhance greatness.

The anthropology of the New Testament is based on that of the Old. It bears witness to the grandeur of the human person created in God's image Gn and to his wretchedness, brought on by the undeniable reality of sin, which makes him into a caricature of his true self.

Greatness of the human person. In the Gospels the greatness of the human being stands out in the solicitude shown to him by God, more than that of the birds of heaven or the flowers of the fields Mt ; it is also highlighted by the ideal proposed to him: to become merciful as God is merciful Lk , perfect as God is perfect Mt , It is hunger for the word of God that draws the crowds first to John the Baptist Mt and par. As the image of God, the human person is attracted towards God. Even the pagans are capable of great faith.

It was the apostle Paul who deepened anthropological reflection. One can scarcely imagine a greater dignity. The theme of the creation of the human person in God's image is treated by Paul in a multifaceted way. It is by contemplating the glory of the Lord that this resemblance is bestowed 2 Co ; The greatness of the human person will then reach its culmination. The wretchedness of the human being. The wretched state of humanity appears in various ways in the New Testament.

It is clear that earth is no paradise! The Gospels repeatedly give a long list of maladies and infirmities that beset people. Death strikes and gives rise to sorrow. But it is especially moral misery that is the focus of attention. Humanity finds itself in a situation of sin that puts it in extreme danger. The preaching of John the Baptist reverberates with force in the desert.

The passion of Jesus was then an extreme manifestation of the moral wretchedness of humanity. Nothing was missing: betrayal, denial, abandonment, unjust trial and condemnation, insults and ill-treatment, cruel sufferings accompanied by mockery. It is in Paul's Letter to the Romans that we find the most sombre description of the moral decay of humanity Rm , and the most penetrating analysis of the condition of the sinner Rm Their refusal to give glory to God and to thank him leads to complete blindness and to the worst perversions Paul wants to show that moral decay is universal and that the Jew is not exempt, in spite of the privilege of knowing the Law It is more in the nature of a theological intuition of what humans become without the grace of God: evil is in the heart of each one cf.

Ps If sin were not universal, there would be some who would have had no need of redemption. The power of sin avails of the Law itself to manifest its destructiveness all the more, by inciting transgression Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thus is manifested the urgent need of redemption. On a different note, but still quite forcefully, the Book of Revelation itself witnesses to the ravages of evil produced in the human world. Evil releases terrible calamities. But it will not have the last word.

Babylon falls The salvation that comes from God is opposed to the proliferation of evil. From the beginning of its history, with the Exodus from Egypt , Israel had experienced the lordas Liberator and Saviour: to this the Bible witnesses, describing how Israel was rescued from Egyptian power at the time of the crossing of the sea Ex The miraculous crossing of the sea becomes one of the principal themes for praising God.

In the land of Canaan, continuing the experience of liberation from Egypt, Israel was once again the recipient of the liberating and salvific intervention of God. Oppressed by enemy peoples because of its infidelity towards God, Israel called to him for help. In the anguished situation of the Exile — after the loss of the Land — Second Isaiah , a prophet whose name is unknown, announced to the exiles an unheard-of message: the Lord was about to repeat his original liberating intervention — that of the Exodus from Egypt — and even to surpass it.

After the return of the exiles, seen as imminent by Second Isaiah and soon to become a reality — but not in a very spectacular manner — the hope of eschatological liberation began to dawn: the spiritual successors of the exilic prophet announced the fulfilment, yet to come, of the redemption of Israel as a divine intervention at the end of time.

In many of the Psalms, salvation takes on an individual aspect. Caught in the grip of sickness or hostile intrigues, an Israelite can invoke the Lord to be preserved from death or oppression. He has confidence in the saving intervention of God Ps In some texts, salvation after death makes its appearance. God then can not only subdue the power of death to prevent the faithful from being separated from him, he can lead them beyond death to a participation in his glory. The Book of Daniel and the Deuterocanonical Writings take up the theme of salvation and develop it further.

In the Old Testament, to bring about liberation and salvation, God makes use of human instruments, who, as we have seen, were sometimes called saviours, as God himself more often was. The very name of Jesus evokes the salvation given by God. It can be said that in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and in the uncontested Pauline Letters, the New Testament is very sparing in its use of the title Saviour.

The title, then, could become ambiguous. Furthermore, the notion of salvation, in the Greek world, had a strong individual and physical connotation, while the New Testament, in continuity with the Old, had a collective amplitude and was open to the spiritual. With the passage of time, the danger of ambiguity lessened. In Jesus' public life, his power to save was manifested not only in the spiritual plane, as in Lk , but also — and frequently — in the bodily realm as well.

He has brought salvation of a different kind. The perspective is eschatological. God is the Liberator and Saviour, above all, of an insignificant people — situated along with others between two great empires — because he has chosen this people for himself, setting them apart for a special relationship with him and for a mission in the world.

The idea of election is fundamental for an understanding of the Old Testament and indeed for the whole Bible. The choice which the Lord made of Israel is manifest in the divine intervention to free it from Egypt and in the gift of the land. At the same time, the importance of Israel's response to the divine initiative is underlined as well as the necessity of appropriate conduct.

In this way, the theology of election throws light both on the distinctive status and on the special responsibility of a people who, in the midst of other peoples, has been chosen as the special possession of God, to be holy as God is holy. In Deuteronomy, the theme of election not only concerns people. One of the more fundamental requirements of the book is that the cult of the Lord be celebrated in the place which the Lord has chosen. The election of the people appears in the hortatory introduction to the laws, but in the laws themselves, divine election is concentrated on one sanctuary.

The chosen tribe is Judah in preference to Ephraim, the chosen person is David. Thus the Lord has chosen Jerusalem 2 Ch or more precisely, Zion Ps , for his dwelling place. For the Israelites in troubled and difficult times, when the future seemed closed, the conviction of being God's chosen people sustained their hope in the mercy of God and in fidelity to his promises. During the Exile, Second Isaiah takes up the theme of election to console the exiles who thought they were abandoned by God Is The execution of God's justice had not brought an end to Israel's election, this remained solid, because it was founded on the election of the patriarchs.

The election of Israel does not imply the rejection of the other nations. This understanding of election is typical of the Bible as a whole. In its teaching on Israel's election, Deuteronomy, as we have said, puts the accent on the divine initiative, but also on the demands of the relationship between God and his people. Faith in the election could, nevertheless, harden into a proud superiority. The prophets battled against this deviation.


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A message of Amos relativises the election and attributes to the nations the privilege of an exodus comparable to Israel's Am Amos believes that the Lord had chosen Israel in a unique and special manner. It expresses a personal relationship more intimate than simply intellectual knowledge. But this relationship brings with it specific moral demands. Because it is God's people, Israel must live as God's people.

For Amos, it is clear that election means responsibility more than privilege. Obviously, the choice comes first followed by the demand. It is nonetheless true that God's election of Israel implies a high level of responsibility. By recalling this, the prophet disposes of the illusion that being God's chosen people means having a claim on God.

The peoples' and their kings' obstinate disobedience provoked the catastrophe of the Exile as foretold by the prophets. This decree of God produced its effect 2 K Jerusalem must be rebuilt; the prophet Haggai predicts for the rebuilt Temple a glory greater than that of Solomon's Temple Hg In this way, the election was solemnly reconfirmed. But the opposition Jesus encounters from the leaders brings about a change of perspective. This word does not mean, however, the substitution of a pagan nation for the people of Israel.

The promise of God's presence with his people which guaranteed Israel's election, is fulfilled by the presence of the risen Lord with his community. Nevertheless, for Luke a certain tension remains because of the opposition encountered by Jesus. This opposition, however, comes from the people's leaders, not from the people themselves who are favourably disposed towards Jesus.

At the same time, there is an awareness that Israel's election is not an exclusive privilege. Thus, the conviction of partaking in the divine election was communicated to all Christians. In the Letter to the Romans, Paul makes clear that for Christians who have come from paganism, what is involved is a participation in Israel's election, God's special people. They have no need to boast to the prejudice of the branches. It cannot, therefore, be said that God has rejected his people The New Testament never says that Israel has been rejected. From the earliest times, the Church considered the Jews to be important witnesses to the divine economy of salvation.

She understands her own existence as a participation in the election of Israel and in a vocation that belongs, in the first place, to Israel, despite the fact that only a small number of Israelites accepted it. Therefore, it is the Jews who will first praise God among the nations; they will then invite the nations to rejoice with the people of God b Paul himself recalls with pride his Jewish origins.

In 2 Co , he sees it as a title of honour parallel to his title as minister of Christ But the point he is making here is that these advantages, instead of leading to Christ, kept him at a distance from him. As we have seen, the election of Israel presents a double aspect: it is a gift of love with a corresponding demand. The Sinai covenant clearly shows this double aspect. As with the theology of election, that of the covenant is from beginning to end a theology of the people of the lord.

Adopted by the lord as his son cf. Ex , , Israel was to live totally and exclusively for him. The notion of covenant then, by its very definition, is opposed to an election of Israel that would automatically guarantee its existence and happiness. Election is to be understood as a calling that Israel as a people is to live out.

The establishment of a covenant demanded on Israel's part a choice and a decision every bit as much as it had for God. In each context, the word has different nuances of meaning. Promise to Noah Gn No obligation is imposed on Noah or on his descendants. God commits himself without reserve. This unconditional commitment on God's part towards creation is the basis of all life. The rainbow is to be a sign of God's promise. Promise to Abraham Gn ; The narrative makes no mention of a reciprocal obligation. The unilateral character of the promise is confirmed by the solemn rite which precedes the divine declaration.

It is a rite of self-imprecation: passing between the two halves of the slaughtered animals, the person making the promise calls down on himself a similar fate, should he fail in his obligations cf. Jr If Gn 15 were a covenant with reciprocal obligations, both parties would have to participate in the rite. The notion of promise in Gn 15 is also found in Gn 17 joined to a commandment.